radiofreemidwich is *ahem* ‘hiring’

December 1, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Posted in blog info, musings | Leave a comment
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It causes me great sadness to announce that Sof Cooper is no longer on the ‘staff’ here at RFM. Alas, she has decided to turn her awesomeness in other directions. We wish her well and her contribution has been celebrated here with a gigantic bonfire of sweet incense and unheard tapes. RFM insiders know that her letter of resignation has been on my exquisitely carved marble desk for some time but I had been IN DENIAL about its contents. However, once I came to terms with the news (by throwing a Kylo-Ren-style office-trashing fit) the thought occurred to me: Ah, could this tragedy prove an opportunity?

The fact is I cannot keep up. Nowhere near. As I type, the review pile contains scores of items, some received as far back as last Spring, and much as I’d like to do nothing but lounge about on a fluffy cloud of downloads I’m afraid ‘real life’ has had other ideas. I admit it is an enviable problem to have – damn all this amazing free stuff, the clamour for our opinion! – and running RFM is largely a joyous experience, but I am left glum by the thought that WE COULD DO MORE.

This is not to cast aspersions on the efforts of the remaining RFM squad, of course. Without them I suspect the whole enterprise would have folded in on itself, like the haunted house at the end of Poltergeist, sometime in the Summer. Joe continues to produce the best writing on music to be found anywhere – the gonzo rapidity of his prose slyly hiding a wit as sharp as shards of broken mirror and a breakdancing phenomenologist’s understanding of what music feels like. Chrissie hand-carves her occasional posts, carefully detailing her appreciation with an even-handed patience, a refreshing openness and an infectious enthusiasm. Luke and marlo have recently been standing by their beds forlornly waiting on orders from their editor whilst I just grin sheepishly and mutter.

You can see where this is going can’t you? Anyone fancy stepping up to help? Here’s the job spec, number of positions available still to be decided:

Firstly only those identifying as women are invited to apply. Odd music, and reporting on odd music, remains male-dominated and I want to do a little to redress that balance.  Secondly, and the only other essential qualification, is I’d like you to be able to convey your enthusiasm for this music with an entertaining writing style.

Regarding that writing, the ideal candidate would be able to commit to, say, at least half a dozen articles a year (hopefully more) with at least half of those taking stuff from the review pile as subject matter (the rest can be at your discretion).  Posts generally run 750-1500 words for reviews or 2000-4000 words for ‘think pieces’ or festival write-ups.  Whilst RFM’s main concern is recorded music I’d be open to suggestions – anyone up for conducting and transcribing interviews, for example?  I’m not interested in bad reviews – this blog is almost entirely positive as a matter of editorial policy – nor does a dry or academic approach much appeal.  We ain’t big on footnotes.

I guess being part of the ‘no-audience underground’ scene (see link below) – punter, participant, whatever – and/or D.I.Y. culture would be handy but isn’t strictly necessary (at least to begin with – gabba, gabba, we accept you!).  Anyone who could help with proofreading and/or formatting submissions for WordPress would likely have their hand bitten off.

Unfortunately, there is no payment available.  RFM attracts about 30,000 visits a year so your writing will be read by an appreciative and knowledgeable crowd but the budget is less-than-zero.  I offer no subscriptions, invite no donations and actually pay WordPress a premium so as to not carry adverts (punk as fuck, me).  There may be the odd freebie review copy posted your way (or download codes emailed if you are outside the UK) but that is it.  We’re all for love.

So, if this appeals and you aren’t already a reader please acquaint yourself with the blog’s style and content – as well as dipping into a handful of reviews I’d advise getting some biscuits and settling down with my last big piece on the ‘no-audience underground’ as that really explains what we are all about.  If you are still interested after that then feel free to contact me via email or Twitter and we’ll talk turkey.

A reshuffle of the ‘about us’ page, a (painfully polite) cull of the review pile and a tightening of the review submission guidelines will follow in due course but I wanted to get this, most exciting, aspect of the coming changes up and running first…

With love,

Rob H

x

leather duck, baklava bullet, wrecked snail: joe murray on tapes from tutore burlato

November 23, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Triple Heater – Aurochs (tape, Tutore Burlato, #15)

Tom White – Commemoratives (tape, Tutore Burlato, #14)

TR/ – Amici di Filippo (tape, Tutore Burlato, #13)

The Custodians – Moribund Mules and Musket Fire (tape, Tutore Burlato, #12)

Usurper with Alex Drool, Maya Dunietz, Eran Sachs and Ilan Volkov – untitled (tape, Tutore Burlato, #16)

tb15

Triple Heater – Aurochs

Not a three-o but a two-oh!  This new pairing from Tutore Burlato High Priest, Ezio Piermattei and the supple-limbed-totem-pole F Ampism flaps at the ears like a leather duck.

Students of the WTF scene can already imagine the smooth Tiki-delic jungle vibes and Red City grit yeah?  But what this charming tape does so well is place the scribble-scrabble gently in a perfumed mango’s peppery slickness.

So a bagpipe meshes seamlessly with egg-slicer, a warped tape workout wetly dribbles into a pink sponge.  Those robot-voice toys are underpinned with a twisted groaning and wrenched knot work.

Voices; children’s voices, male and female voices are a recurring warble that change the emotional resonance of every rattle and honk.  Each piece remains human as a result, the occasional frenetic crackle an umlaut or other such punctuation.  YEAH… I’m picking up a master’s hand in the edit suite ensuring each piece is a perfect mix of wet and dry, organic and man-made.

But it’s not all high-octane, fingers-on-triggers yucks.  These gents are not afraid to whip out a haunting beauty-jam.  ‘Telamoni Curiosi’ has a rich drawn-out slowness; the kind that floods through your body like hot opium immediately before you have an accident.  You’re powerless to stop the door crunch the finger, the heel slip on the banana peel but in that moment of submission you taste the bitter tang of true happiness.

The perfect music to accompany images of Oscar Niemeyer’s Brasilia dream.

tb14

Tom White – Commemoratives

As 2016 continues to be that damn Tom White’s year this cassette might just be the best one yet readers.

The nosey will know the drill already; a reel-to-reel tape recorder is used to manually manipulate a loop of innocent brown tape; possibly a few pedals get pressed.  Sounds easy enough, eh?

But on Commemoratives Tom’s gritty palms are transferring some kind of magnetic-manna to the slowly looping sound resulting in remarkable acrobatic leaps and whorls absolutely RIPPING out of the speakers like a sweet baklava bullet.

There’s a depth, a real colon-churning depth, to how these sounds roll bilious and tight.  And just when you’re feeling fit to burst a cow-bell ‘K-LUNG’ bouncing between the speakers rattles you back into the world of flat stomachs and healthy greens.

The excellent side-long ‘Evoke a Yes’ drives Alpine cattle from their lush pasture through granular hair-pin bends; a single brassy ‘donk’ becomes the repeated motif lurching drunkenly on the local firewater until a chrome trebuchet hurls great gassy grenades into the steaming tar pits . But at the same time I’m minded of an early tape music boffin, wrapped up in labcoat and thick Clark Kents, dancing to this in his cluttered broom cupboard.

Performance-wise there is nothing held back and at times I’m pretty sure a block of particularly hectic loopery has sent me back in time a couple of seconds… a couple of seconds… a…

A powerful and heady brew that even when it’s doing nothing in particular is re-calibrating your brain-pod with subtly shifting patterns – a sly parquet interlocking those lazy synapses.

tb13

TR/ – Amici di Filippo

A right beanfeast this one – comforting and creamy.

‘Sabato’ starts with thick slapback-echo riffles over electronic-sand, creating waves of

wuhhuhuhuuhu…

Pietro La Rocca’s lumpy canvas to paint up with Patrycja Stefaneck’s wonderful smeared voices.

Things progress at a wrecked snail’s pace: the canvas becomes laced ribbons of liquorice empowered with a mystic charge; the voice gobbles and mutters, wriggles and stutters slathered like golden butter.

Side two opens with something akin to a song but in this instance the campfire we are sitting around has been built of oleander creating choking, hallucinogenic fumes.  Urgently strummed guitars stretch their steel strings to the horizon, shimmering like a Fripp-mirage while gentle disembodied voices float overhead.

The closer, ‘Digitale Terrestre’ pulls all these elements together in a light sketch, an open doodle of huffing and mithering.  Innocent squeaks escape and fly between the massed mouth-chunter. This time it’s the guitar that floats overhead, darting in and out of the weft like a stickleback – silvery but sharp enough to draw blood.  These enhanced throat and lips have a Residents-style quality and I’m half expecting to launch into an Infant Tango before long.

You want some sweet to go with that gravy?  Look no further than duo TR/.

tb12

The Custodians – Moribund Mules and Musket Fire

Radio 4.

Radio-o-o fo-o-or.

R’aid-eeeeee-oh oh oh oh oh            fuh, fuh, fuh                          Or?

Forgive my brief extrapolation but these Custodians (just plain Custodians on this tape – not ‘of the Realm’ as on the previous outings I’ve heard) serve up a classy dish that breaks apart that British institution of cosy improv and spoken word like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, leaving 12 dense segments splayed and easily snackable.

Their M.O. involves occasional multi-tracked speaking parts weaving between Adam Bohman’s carefully curated sonic-detritus, Adrian Northover’s saxes and synth and Sue Lynch’s tenor sax and lyrical reeds.

It’s a truly wonderful listen; light, airy and unhurried.  You just can’t fake the love and respect in this playing.  It’s clearly defined yet ego-less, economical but happy to gild the occasional corner.

Each player, a standout in their own right, dons the collective cap with aplomb so shimmering brass sings and croons, often swooping in the wake of a wagtail’s gentle undulations.  The ‘objects’ (large glasses bowed and combs teeth pinged with a thumb for example) add just exactly the right level of clutter and stroking to keep things tasty.

The text pieces seem to follow Adam Bohman’s ‘instructional/institutional’ approach with medical terms dropping from three mouths like ripe plumbs.

It couldn’t be more English if it wore a bowler hat.

tb16

Usurper with Alex Drool, Maya Dunietz, Eran Sachs and Ilan Volkov – untitled

Here the brothers Duff & Robertson are joined by Tel Aviv’s finest for some surprisingly tender hap, grapple and schooshh.

I guess the temptation with such a big-band is go the full Ellington and honk it up outta each loud hole.  But on this occasion, and I’m not sure if it’s the brothers instructions or our host’s impeccable manners, these side-long pieces balloon like parachute silk and float with nowt but a gentle ripple.

Side one.  I’m getting a tingle in my loins that suggests method.  Old bronze coins dropped with arthritic fingers, cold marbles rolled across the wooden floor, straw flutes blown listlessly, burbling electric soup (sans batteries), rocking chairs rough squall, soft mouths chanting under flannel vests and knitting needles wrapped in sellotape tapped against the kitchen table.  These bare-bones are constantly reinvented and realigned.

I’m getting signals in my lugs that indicate structure.  A gentle moraine, its gritty interconnectedness based on Turkish carpet patterns.  Twelve hands reaching out and six brains sparking with damp electricity.   A bustling village of gossip coming to rest at the end of a particularly busy day.

The nervous rustle of bodies and fingers has an ingrained tension, of course, because (SPOILER ALERT) the moneyshot never arrives!  If you’re waiting to see who’s going to crack first and ‘blah’ out forget it Bub, this is one saucy tease yeah?

Side two is hardly any more physical but wears its influences proudly in a collective throat-jam.

Dry coughs and sighs and huffs are double-bubbled to form a bivalve experience: left and right unite in slurpy kisses on stubbly cheeks.  I picture our sacred six stretched out on roman loungers dripping sweet grape cheek-parps and wet gonzo hawks.  The odd spare hand languorously rattling a tin fig or ripping off an elastoplast completes a decadent sound-image.

I riff on the chorus of grunts.  I goof on the collective harmonic gasp. We follow the da-dada-dada-da-da conversation; until ‘uh uh errr…’ it descends into laugher as a Pangolin snuffles for truffles.

The real true joy yeah!

—ooOoo—

Tutore Burlato

new on fencing flatworm recordings! ‘one year; two days.’ by the award winning namke communications

November 16, 2016 at 9:03 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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namke communications – one year; two days. (CD-r, fencing flatworm recordings, edition of 40 or download)

Seems a very, very long time since January 8th, eh readers?  A mere two days before the death of Bowie officially kicked off the most mind-boggling year in recent history I posted the 2015 Zellaby Awards – our annual shindig celebrating the finest of the no-audience underground.  In the introduction I commented that, aside from the rise of Corbyn, 2015 was largely without hope and that…

I wish you all good luck in navigating the coming End Times.

I meant it as a joke, of course, but I find myself becoming more frantically sincere in that wish as the days go by. Seriously, everything from the most personal and intimate (e.g. a spot on my nose became a cancer scare and has now been removed leaving a tiny crater) to the immense and geopolitical (e.g. President <makes dry boke noises> Trump <groans, mops brow>) seems primed to do us harm.

What can we do? Organize? I guess (my political views are heartfelt and hard left but only semi-coherent – better thinkers than me will need to carry the torch on that one). Love each other? Of course. Try not to forget what’s important? For sure. Carry on getting shit done? Definitely. So, in that spirit please allow me to present a treat, a product of 2016 to actually gladden the heart:

one year; two days. by namke communications, released by fencing flatworm recordings.

By way of context, let me take you back to the innocent, halcyon days of the first week in January and remind you who was staggering down the red carpet clutching the most important golden-eyed statuette. Apologies for quoting myself:

—ooOoo—

namke - 365-2015

Finally then, the winner of the Zellaby Award for album of the year presented by Radio Free Midwich is, in an unusually literal sense, the album of the year: 365/2015 by namke communications.  From a piece I wrote in March:

…old-friend-of-RFM John Tuffen, in a project which recalls the conceptual bloodymindedness of Bill Drummond (who has raised ‘seeing it through’ to the level of art form), is recording a track every day throughout the whole of 2015 and adding them to the album [on Bandcamp] as the calendar marches on … each track is freshly produced on the day in question and, as might be expected, vary enormously in style, execution and instrumentation – there is guitar improv, electronica in various hues and field recording amongst other genres welcome ’round here…

[…]

This one I have no qualms about dipping into, in fact I would recommend constructing your own dipping strategies. As the year progresses you could build an album from the birthdays of your family, or never forget an anniversary again with a self-constructed namke communications love-bundle. Won a tenner on the lottery? Create your own three track EP with the numbers and paypal John a couple of quid. Or perhaps a five CD boxset called ‘Thursday Afternoon’, in homage to Brian Eno, containing everything released on that day of the week? Or condense the occult magic with a set comprising every 23rd track? Ah, the fun to be had. Or you could just listen to it on a daily basis until it becomes a welcome part of your routine…

I was at least half-joking at the time but engaging with 365/2015 has proved a unique way of experiencing an album.  During the worst of my illness [Editor’s note: I had a lengthy period of depression in 2015], as I spent nights trawling Twitter unable to sleep, it did become a valuable part of my daily routine.  Literally a light in the darkness – Bandcamp page shining on the tablet as I lay in bed – John’s project, existing due to nothing but his crazy drive to create (the whole thing, 40+ hours, available as a ‘name your price’ download!), truly helped me through.  A clear and worthy winner.

John’s prize, should he wish to take me up on it, is for namke communications to have the one and only release on the otherwise dormant fencing flatworm recordings some time in 2016.  A surprise baby sister, perhaps, for his lovely available from namke communications released by me back in the day and now (I think) a teenager itself.

—ooOoo—

Heh, heh – the very idea still makes me shake my head in delighted disbelief.  Well, fortunately, after a suitable period of recuperation, John did wish to take me up on it and here, in mid-November, we have it.  Better late than never, eh?

one year; two days. – named, presumably, in homage to its award winning predecessor and the contrasting time it took to record – is a four track, 35 minute album of detailed, emotive and ambitious computer music. Tracks are titled solely with a file protocol based on date of composition – like a digital Taming Power – the rest is for the listener to piece together. Perhaps you are now expecting clicks, pops and tooth-loosening scree but thankfully those genre tropes are largely absent, replaced instead with expansive, meteorological drones and disorientating pulsing. Repeat listens are richly rewarded. The beautiful cover photo, also by John, is bang on – we look up from swiping our black mirrors to find that it is now night and the car park is empty, a scene that is clean, modern and urban but also charged and primal. It’s an image that illustrates the music perfectly. I’ll say no more for now – it’s there for you to discover.

The physical version of this release is presented on artisan, bespoke CD-rs – the true underground format – lovingly hand-bought on the internet then exquisitely hand-burned on the RFM HQ laptop, hand-numbered with an authentically shonky permanent marker and hand-packaged in robust, plastic wallets made from 100% recycled dinosaur. Colour covers were printed illicitly and hand-cut on the RFM HQ kitchen table for maximum punkosity. The edition is of a mere 40 copies – 20 for sale via fencing flatworm, John will have the rest – and prices are so low that I think I’ve just sorted out your Christmas present worries: £2.50 including postage in the UK, £3 for Europe and £3.50 for the rest of the world.  This amazing bargain is available to order via the fencing flatworm Bandcamp site where you can also find a glistening, pay-what-you-want download if you’d prefer.  We don’t mind how you consume this album just as long as you do.  I hope you dig it.

Take care, people.

With love, Rob H x

—ooOoo—

fencing flatworm recordings

namcom

The 2015 Zellaby Awards

a shit-kickin’ band from blackpool: pete coward on ceramic hobs

November 12, 2016 at 10:30 pm | Posted in musings, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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hobs-liverpool

(Mountford Hall, Liverpool, 28th October 2016, photo courtesy of @salfordelectron)

[Editor’s note: Inspired by the announcement of their final tour, Pete Coward asked if I’d be interested in publishing a guest post by him about Ceramic Hobs. I bit his hand off.

Pete has long been a presence in underground music as a bootlegger, scene historian and writer for indispensable zines such as Turbulent Times. He is one of four ‘superfans’ called on by Phil Todd to help compile the forthcoming best of Ashtray Navigations set (the others being me, Neil Campbell and, would you believe, Henry Rollins) and his selections are, as expected, as superb as they are obscure. Recently he has been producing booklets of his own poetry which is poignant, darkly humorous and depicts a park-bench view of the world a lot of us Ceramic Hobs fans will recognise. If I were you I’d email him at pete.coward@gmail.com and get yourself on his list.

Oh, and he also wanted me to mention that he dreamed about Borbetomagus the other night but the band were reduced to a duo, which made him quite sad.]

—ooOoo—

Writing about Ceramic Hobs is a tricky exercise. The band has just called time on their thirty years of music making so it seemed timely, if foolish, to pose the question to myself,

so what was all that about?

After a few weeks of considering that question and of re-listening I have no clearer answers than before and my thoughts seem scattered ever further. I can only offer attempts to rein in some of those thoughts, to see if tracing my confusion results in any kind of useable map to the terrain explored by Ceramic Hobs.

To start on what solid ground there is, Ceramic Hobs formed in Blackpool in the mid-80s. Their line-up has constantly shifted since, with founder Simon Morris being the one constant. The sound coalesced at a fairly early stage, into a distinctive mix of heavy lo-fi psychedelia and prankster musique concrète, driven by a truculent punk core. In high concept terms, they sound like a band that never really came down from that lysergic rush received on first listen to Locust Abortion Technician in the late ‘80s. They share Butthole Surfers’ love of excess. Their records are a potlatch of cultural and musical detritus. If there is a discernible linear progression in their sound, it is a thickening of that excess, a process of musical and thematic accretion. Tracks get longer over time (up to 35 minutes in the case of the title track to Oz Oz Alice, 2010), the sound becomes more layered and densely compacted, the sprawl of the music more suffocating.

ceramic hobs - oz oz alice cover

Later albums like Oz Oz Alice and Spirit World Circle Jerk (2013) represent an apex of this Tetsuo-like approach, one that threatens to collapse under its own mass. This development was possibly unsustainable in other respects; Simon said in an interview shortly after Oz Oz Alice,

I can’t do anything as dangerous as that again if I am to physically survive.

This sense of genuine danger and personal threat (to band and listener) comes in large part from the topics explored by Ceramic Hobs. These themes have been part of their music and lyrics from the beginning and could be outlined as a fascination with, a dwelling upon, the marginal, the abject and objectified, and particularly those areas of it shadowed by mental illness.

The foregrounding of the latter subject has been such that Ceramic Hobs have been frequently cast as a Psychiatric Survivor band, or as a Mad Pride band, referring to the international radical mental health campaigning movement (for which Ceramic Hobs have played a number of benefit gigs). The band has described themselves as functioning like a therapeutic community. They have spoken with pride of the numbers of members, current and past, who have been psychiatric in-patients. Those statistics have more recently been superseded by numbers of ex-members who have died; I’m unsure of the correlation, if any, between those two sets of figures.

Ceramic Hobs - Spirit World Circle Jerk

I am wary of focussing too narrowly on this undeniably significant aspect of the work. To do so runs the risk of reductionism and ghettoization. Ceramic Hobs are about mental illness in the same way Grateful Dead are about acid or drum ‘n bass about E. It’s an influence, part of the culture and politics of the music (and a big part of what makes it political music), but just as one factor among many. Also that influence has been creatively assimilated and refracted in ways that we call art (which is why I’d also counter that talk of the band as a therapeutic community is an unhelpful misrepresentation). You do not have to be tripping to recognise the greatness of Europe ‘72, neither does the listener require a mental health diagnosis to appreciate the music of Ceramic Hobs. Their lyrics may reference terms such as largactyl and dual diagnosis but if you are fortunate enough not to have learned the meaning of those, the context still leaves you in no doubt about the unpleasantness of both. You could make a perfectly good case for Ceramic Hobs being a great band without any reference to mental illness, and you certainly don’t need to “have” mental illness to “get them.”

That clearly said, it is not closing down any possibilities to also state that listening to Europe ‘72 while blasted may be a particularly rewarding experience, just as Ceramic Hobs’ personal experience of mental illness channelled into their music may be hugely empowering for someone who is a psychiatric survivor and listens to them as such. Ceramic Hobs embody both, and other, dialectical positions and it’s this ability to do so and to reflect all of those in the music that I find particularly admirable. The music of Ceramic Hobs provides a rarely heard perspective on experiences and thoughts shared by many, a perspective that is uniquely positive and celebratory. They have earned their place in narratives of mental health resistance and activism. They have also earned their reputation as a shit-kickin’ band from Blackpool, and I think it is useful to see their personal and political fearlessness, the use of illness as a weapon, as a means to carve out the zone of free self-expression which enabled that to develop.

ceramic hobs - psychiatric underground cover

This multiplicity of meanings and possibilities is expressed synecdochally in the title to their 1998 debut album Psychiatric Underground. It could be seen as a statement of marginal reclamation and militancy, after Mad Pride and The Weather Underground; or as a social/political/cultural/economic designation for Ceramic Hobs as musicians and mental health service users. It could equally be seen as an existential stance akin to Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man, existing at the edges so as to pass judgement on the centre; Simon in the self-appointed role of “Last Of The Great Blasphemers.” The psychological effort that must be needed for Ceramic Hobs as artists to inhabit each and all of these positions must be significant. That casts light for me on Simon’s words quoted earlier about the danger of creating this music. He went on to say in that interview,

I do think that artists should be ready to put their work above all else in life and risk health and sanity for it, otherwise it is a fucking half-arsed hobby.

That intense level of commitment also raises thoughts about the role of authenticity in art and music, and how far Ceramic Hobs embody that.

ceramic hobs - straight outta rampton cover

This is not authenticity as lazy sincerity, as in “Ceramic Hobs mean it, man,” as Richey Edwards did. It is authenticity as expression of genuine truth within power structures that deny and invalidate that truth and in a society so culturally oversaturated that any expression appears within quotation marks. Sontag wrote in ‘Notes On Camp’ of a time and culture when

…sincerity is not enough. Sincerity can be simple philistinism, intellectual narrowness.

Sincerity is an infertile harmony of intention and effect, life and art. An alternate praxis she posits is

…overstraining the medium and introducing more and more violent, and unresolvable, subject-matter.

Ceramic Hobs create with the knowledge that irony, satire, transgression, vulgarity, the carnivalesque are the few modes of expression left with genuine potential to turn the world upside down.

This is also the only authenticity that can be possible on the internet. Ceramic Hobs seamlessly entered into a fecund feedback loop with online culture, indeed seemed to have been anticipating it. The female-voiced narratives of despair on tracks such as ‘Remembrance for Nicole Simpson’, ‘My Judas Lover’, and ‘Crash And Burn’ disturbingly capture the tropes of countless ‘My struggle with …’ videos uploaded to YouTube by teenage girls. The vocals to those tracks are credited either to Jane or Kate Fear but the voices seem indistinguishable to me in their numbed, affectless and weightless monotony. Lyrics like

I just want to find some kind of peace / You just want me in pieces

wouldn’t be out of place as the tag-lines to further countless tumblrs. Simon’s most prolific project these days seems to be his blog, a diarrhetic overflow of contextless found images and words, possibly some kind of apophenia bait.

hobs-leeds

(Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 20th October 2016, photo courtesy of @zanntone)

The underside to online hyperreality in the world of Ceramic Hobs is the very tangible reality of Blackpool, Lancashire, the city that they call home and which features regularly in their lyrics, both as backdrop and central character. It’s a place that can be equally deadening in its excess, as wearying in its touting of ephemeral pleasures. “Socially engineered by Blackpool” reads the credits to Psychiatric Underground. There does seem to be a local civic pride in reckless alcohol-fuelled hedonism, hell-for-leather escapism and constructed unreality which is reflected in the music of Ceramic Hobs. The band’s own local pride seems as ambivalent as that of the eponymous ‘Glasgow Housewife’ from Spirit World Circle Jerk who belts out drunkenly

I belong to Glasgow, dear old Glasgow town, but there’s something the matter with Glasgow…

There is palpable resentment and frustration, such as the self-explanatory ‘This Sore And Broken Blackpool Legacy’, but that must be seen alongside more affectionate tributes such as ‘Blackpool Transport,’ which namechecks and samples a sizeable list of local bands, framed bathetically by a story of pursuing teenage kicks through cheap booze and solvent abuse while sheltering from the rain in a car park. The love/hate relationship with Blackpool is one of Ceramic Hobs’ least surprising and most reconcilable contrary positions.

ceramic hobs - 72 hour drink binge alco pop madness

Those others I’ve reflected on above go some way to explaining the fascination this band holds for me. These contradictions and obfuscations thread through their music as inexhaustibly as words through a stick of rock. Their retirement depletes even further those few bands prepared to challenge listeners and make that challenge worthwhile. An epitaph that they may appreciate, Ceramic Hobs left us more bewildered, paranoid and despairing for their presence these past few decades.

—ooOoo—

Ceramic Hobs on Facebook

Ceramic Hobs on Discogs

tin apples: joe murray on kiko c. esseiva, sisto rossi, dale cornish, phil julian, murray royston-ward

November 10, 2016 at 1:29 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Kiko C. Esseiva – Zenith Larsen/Nadir Larsen (tape, SPAM, spam20, edition of 50)

Sisto Rossi – Soundtrack To A Nailed Shut Coffin (tape, SPAM, spam19, edition of 40)

Dale Cornish and Phil Julian – Laughing Out (7″ vinyl, The Wormhole, WHO#07, edition of 123 or download)

Murray Royston-Ward – My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors near My House (2 x 32 page booklets and CD-r, edition of 80, privately published)

Murray Royston-Ward – Language is a Virus (16 page booklet and CD-r, edition of 30, privately published)

Murray Royston-Ward – Improvisations 2014 (28 page booklet, edition of 50, privately published)

kiko

Cologne’s SPAM tapes introduces me, yet again, to a bunch of whacked-out sound-goats who’ve been chugging on at this lark for ages.  I’m blind and I’m humbled!

Kiko C. Esseiva, a Swiss/Spanish electro-acoustic artist is first out of the traps with a mysterious pot of gunk inlaid with grease, buzz and tin apples.

The two sidelong pieces (‘Zenith Larsen’ and ‘Nadir Larsen’) crackle with a fairly dark energy, juggling taped grot with live (or live sounding) interventions on cracked gongs and bicycle wheel.

Like eavesdropping on a light machinery workshop the sounds move to their own logic, cutting out and starting up when the unseen controller sees fit.  You’ve just got to keep your fingers clear of the whirling blades eh?  But this never sounds grim… almost at the end of side one there’s a glorious smear of ant-noise and cyborg humming that makes me click my fingers like I’ve remembered an old magic trick.

Side two (‘Nadir…’) is a thoughtful huff on brass pipe and fingernail tap until some unholy voice-jugger/vibrating clam starts a magnetic earthquake in my stomach. Gosh!  This is warped and holy.  Magnificent and almighty! I’m having a bit of an experience here as I dash about looking for my headphones to inject this straight into my hungry holes.

Of course, the unseen hand turns a dial and we are left in a land of shingle, mournful keys and wretched whirring. Hey… there are worse ways to spend an afternoon right?

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Harsh Noise thinker and instrument builder Sisto Rossi (AKA Wallkeeper) wins today’s prize for evocative tape title with his Soundtrack To A Nailed Shut Coffin.

What would you expect from a tape like this reader?  Claustrophobic screams? Stiff-armed wriggles and cramped-leg stomps? Bloodied fingernail scratch?  Yeah… me too.  But I have to report this tape, while stunningly intense and full-on, is almost nihilistically detached in its approach.

Sure the buffering roar of noise is filtered into your skull along with the odd broken-crockery rattle but it’s all constructed with a feeling of impotent dread, a slackness, a ‘lost cause’ lassitude that’s strangely affecting.

While occasional electronic squalls add a high-end to the relentless churning and asphalt-grazing thunder the base-note is those personal dark thoughts; those repetitive nightmares made so real you can smell the damp earth.

The closing moments capture the last fleeting thoughts of expiration – part relief and part regret; bright as 1000 fires but burning out to dead ash in micro-seconds.

The sound of lying broken, six feet under and simply giving up.

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From grimy analogue hopelessness to bright digital cleanliness with Dale Cornish and Phil Julian on their super snappy li’l seven-incher Laughing Out.

The title side absolutely crackles with the sort of power and energy that winds up in a filthy-dirty joke told in the Vatican.

Shared electronics spit goat fat.  It’s dripping wetly on hot coals while Dale sneers it out.

It’s a guffaw in cuisine

he snarls, leading the dear listener on a hectic goose-chase around slack-littered city streets and the hidden canyon of dreams we project onto whatever our reality is right now.

But this is in no way ‘dream-y’ readers.  The poise and shimmer is as solid as a beard trim and ultra-sarcastic like the very best Glam Rock.  There’s still a pair of hobnail boots beneath all that glitter, eh?

The ‘b’ side offers us two shorter ham-slaps.  ‘For Vocal’ mimics the shattering of optic nerves, made of bruised ice, against a brass pitchfork.  Yeah!  Very brittle, incredibly sharp and super-cold.

The closer, ‘Palazzo’, starts with a dark pulse but soon morphs into a mini mystery play for baritone voice and tight crime-beats.

Can you hear? Can you hear?

The whole thing, sides ‘a’ and ‘b’, clock in at under 6 minutes; the perfect brevity of a paper cut or punk gob.

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Taken as a piece of found-sound-art-off-the-pile Murray Royston-Ward’s My Neighbour Who Lives in the City of Mirrors near My House is an impressive enough document.

It shudders and ripples, it pops and whines in all the right places.  But add to this the rich Bangladeshi field recordings data in the accompanying booklets, outlining Murray’s journey from leafy Nottingham to the other side of the world, and you’re adding another peppering of intention and understanding.

On ‘A Very Small Guernica Facing a Rather Large Mona Lisa’ these augmented recordings (a rethinking of what silence actually is) feature the constant urban horn section of tuk-tuks and taxi cabs punctuating Murray’s iron-coated dragnet like exploding garlands.

Let’s be clear, Murray’s a master of the clink and rattle: on ‘Topos of Intrusive Sound’ the carefully placed metallic object, dropped shoe or Pringles tube shuffle in and out of your earhole with a customary jolliness.  Murray’s top trump has always been his inclusion of careful humour into this sometimes stuffy improv world.

But the mood darkens (unsurprisingly) at the ‘Slaughter Livestock Festival’; excited crowds chatter while suspicious cows gingerly cotton on.  Every sound becomes pregnant with meaning. A quite innocent washing makes me think of thick red blood sluuushing down the dusty street, a metallic ‘shing-g-g’ the sharpening of a blade.  At twelve minutes this is an unbearably tense listen.

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Language is a Virus, a 28 minute spoken word/reportage collage, concerns the myths, prejudices and reality of Ebola; not only the disease itself but its socio-political impact.  What makes this hit even harder is the fact source material was gathered by Holly Royston-Ward, Murray’s wife, during her work as a nurse in Sierra Leone.  Harrowing, thought-provoking and informative.  No smart Alec remarks from me (for once), all I’m going to say is check this out here.

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Finally, an honourable mention goes out to Improvisations 2014, an artist book of photographs, locations, timings and instrumentation for imagined improvisations.  An interesting experiment, it invites the ‘listener’ to imagine combinations: spring, metal chain, cassette player, prayer cymbal, bait packaging (for example) with no recorded sound to back it up.  I’m getting a plink/boing/screee/crackle from this list.  What about you?

Take a trip with Murray but be sure to flick through images of a 70’s Alan Whicker to get the dislocation vibe spot on.

—ooOoo—

SPAM

The Wormhole

Murray Royston-Ward

chasing the unnatural: joe murray on graham stewart, brendan mcgeever, 21st century band, downer canada, graham dunning, tom white

November 4, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Graham Stewart & Brendan McGeever – Larsson Sessions (tape, Piped-in From Head Office Records, pifho007, edition of 41 or download)

21st Century Band – Dinner Free (tape, no label – or not, see editor’s note below)

Downer Canada – Hieronsong (microcassette, tape, Power Moves Library, PMLibrary 010, edition of 5, edition of 11 or download)

Graham Dunning & Tom White – You Are a New Creature (tape or download, Fractal Meat Cuts, initial edition of 10 with hand-printed lasagne sheet)

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Graham Stewart & Brendan McGeever – Larsson Sessions

It’s the tradition for hacks like me to drop them Blade Runner references coz it’s such an N-AU universal [Editor’s note: as a life-long PKD fan and former PKD obsessive, I think Blade Runner is shite, not a patch on the existential masterpiece it is ‘inspired’ by].  Blah, blah, blah – Replicants and Vangelis yeah!  But for once I want to tweak the paradigm and re-imagine the rainy streets and heavy manners for a pastel-smeared over-the-rainbow, Studio Ghibli version.  In my imagining folk are retired with a big hug, the noodles come with a side order of foam bananas and the massive Greek gets turfed out the studio to allow Stewart and McGeever to tinkle on the slack plastic keys [Editor’s note: that would be better, f’sure].

What we gets here is a set of micro-songs and themes all played lightly on the Roland System 100 Model 101 and Korg Poly 800 exactly in the middle of 2004; predating Oneohtrix and his goons by 8 seasons at least (by my cheesy reckoning).

Soft and delightful.  The wobble floats upwards, the digital purring of a cat shifts into a light sprinkle of icing sugar dusting your cheeks.  A brave world is glimpsed through the cotton candy fug, orange and pink and red, the colour melts onto your tongue chasing the unnatural.  A most gentle voice, tones almost under the threshold of my hearing, instantly turning the instrumental studies into something approaching the Scottish Air!

Zoinks!  It’s rare I listen to anything so self-consciously pretty.  Sure, there is rough and fragile beauty a-plenty in ‘da scene’ but these deliberate constructions of a blunted, golden sunlight chimes perfectly with me on a cold autumn morning.  My word!  These warm pools of analogue colour splodge with a tranquillity rare in this day and age; the hopscotch skipping makes my toes jolly ranchers.

While critics goof on that arch Stranger Things parade… the coolest boys in school have been digging out the archive and pulling out the real thing.

Get lucky.

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21st Century Band – Dinner Free

[Editor’s note: as this tape was chucked directly into the rabbit warren where Family Posset live I have never actually seen it.  The discogs listing gives that name and title and says it is without label.  However, almost every picture the internet associates with it suggests it could also be called ‘Masochism’ and be released by Vitrine with the catalogue number VT18 in an edition of 100.  As we are diligent journos here at RFM I demanded photos from Joe and received the above.  Unused J-cards being recycled?  In-joke?  ‘Art’?  Who knows, eh?  Those scamps!]

I’m guessing you sound-sorcerers ken THE VOICE OF THE MYSTERONS yeah?  All that booming echo that explodes outta nowhere yet still casts a circular shadow?  Ever imagined THE MYSTERONS washing up, fixing a bicycle tyre or rattling around just for the jaxx of it?

21st Century Band (or perhaps it’s Masochism, also mentioned on the tape sleeve) taps right into this Martian telekinetic vibe and sets up a broadcast of damp clanging and the glug-glug-glug of a jug-band decanting their tear-stained blues.

Events are fractured from their reality belt.  Without an eye we are left rather loose in our understanding and this, my dearest reader, is what makes Dinner Free so gloriously slack and comfy.

I can project any sordid thoughts onto this soft creamy expanse of recorded fuh.  So much so, when the one-note keyboard pads like the soft foot of a toddler I’m so deep, I’m so immersed it all sounds natural and right.  The plastic flute – natural and right.  The brief Hawaiian TV snappet – natural and right  (Side A – ‘New Sensations’).

Side B – ‘Kyoko on Yoko’, makes even less sense.  Someone is reading a Dennis Wheatley novel and acting out the opening ritual scene which would be scary if the Satanists weren’t so damn posh.  Who’s ever been spooked by a dandy Satanist?

But, I have to admit, the squeal of the wheel has a swing like Jaki Liebezeit – even the tugboat horn solo could be a cowbell.  Even the juddering machine soundz could be floor toms slapped with rubber teats.

A real tickler (‘Hidden Tracks’) rigs up the exact sound of an English back-bedroom; cracked pipes (laid out on a wooden chair) and Woolworths guitar with that distinctive watery treble. It fair takes me back to the smell of fanzine ink  – Grim Humour and the Kent massive!

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Downer Canada – Hieronsong

Hyper-real tape pieces from the multi-limbed Kev Cahill that came out on a damn micro-cassette! It’s sold out now, in this rarest of formats, but there’s no excuse not to point a squeaky mouse at the download option.

We’re talking 30 minutes of delicious hiss and human breath here.

Part one sounds like a lo-fi take on Steve Reich classic ‘Come Out’ recorded on a cross channel ferry.  The

speaking, dreaming, lucid, vision

refrain loops incessantly, folding back on itself, building up layers of meaning then squeezing them flat like word toothpaste out from a tube.  The listening experience is strangely comforting, your mind wanting a rhythm to settle but edgily excited by each new juxtaposition thrown up the wonderful (dis)symmetry of loop-music.

Part two fuzzes deliciously for a third of its lifespan; there’s nothing much happening apart from the busy fizz of magnetic tape buffering across the simple mechanics of dual tape players and the sound of a real live room.  But as I’m getting settled into a Jazzfinger frame-of-mind multiple wooden flutes parp with jittery menace across the landscape. These ‘pipes of pan’ induce a real panic, a loss of control and feeling of unease that’s hard to shake.  Not sure if it’s the tone or the collapsing logic that is so unsettling here but I breathe out again only when a firm finger presses ‘stop’ and the ritual clicks off.

File under shipping-forecast-peyote-trip music.

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Graham Dunning & Tom White – You Are a New Creature

A magpie-eyed borrower and reel-to-reel druid are joined by saucy neophytes on both ‘crisps’ and ‘rice spill’ for ‘Battle Overall Perspectives’, a lengthy vexation that takes up all of side one.

Rattle-hula and rimple-roll eh?

That’s right!  Simple crackle and rippage is run across slack mag-heads while CO2 is bubbled through warm milk (blub,blub,blub) making the edge of it smell suspiciously fruity.  There’s a pet lip protruding as the nimble fingers tackle crispy potato snacks and mash sticky rice with gummy mouths.

The sound-scape runs between ‘impossibly busy’ to ‘sparse and spooky’ like an inner city carpark over the course of its stale concrete day.  And it’s these movements; the transitions that make me roll over and cry ‘Uncle!’  Such plastic crackles are not uncommon in the N-AU (see Robert Ridley’s latest Tupperwave ) but the damn languor of the knuckle pops is glorious.  Glorious ya hear?

Interlaced: stray moments of crowd noise, a piano, more crisps and knotty knocks… then an ill wind blows.  We’ve moved to a very different terrain.  The ‘fi’ is shoved up high into your face and the dry and brittle becomes sleek and oil-filmed.  I’m seabird drowning in black gold.

If there’s not an ecological message I’m damn well chalking one up.  My slow-brain ruminates on nasty packaging and unnecessary filling, those string bags for oranges, tin pie dishes and the grot you have to wrench off a jar of Dolmio before you can douse your pasta in that crimson gloop.

The gummy mouths strike back in ‘Raking Leaves on Black Top’ (side B) with a filthy nosh of sloshing, rushing and warped crotchets.

A studio piece, this revels in heavy echo and thick textures creating a sly narcotic effect potent as Scientist’s Space Invaders dunked into a frothing burn, brook or beck.

And while I’m typing away, the increasingly unhinged ‘flup, flupp, puppp… whirrrrrrr, flup,pup, pup’ of mangled tape really starts to fidget at the edges of my vision.  I get audio hallucinations; I see a tunnel and my lips tremble.  A wheelbarrow of melons trundles by, scarlet ivy grows up my trouser leg.  This really is some Live at the Filmore East joint.  My gosh!

But this psychedelic vibe is well and truly bummed on closer ‘Reville Bugle Call’ by pitting those ‘Sounds of Death and Horror’ sound effects el-pees against the incidental Foley from an episode of Space 1999 with all their sexy catsuits and leotards.  I’m sat up straight and paying strict attention as the vortex of shrieks and damp piano sustains my crystal plumage.

Dunning & White.  Jokers maybe, explorers for sure – but watch out for the sharpened key hidden between the fingers.  I said watch it!

—ooOoo—

21st Century Band / Vitrine – Be resourceful.

Piped-in From Head Office Records

Power Moves Library

Fractal Meat Cuts

radiofreemidwich goes to tusk festival 2016

October 23, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Posted in live music, midwich, musings, new music, no audience underground | 8 Comments
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TUSK Festival 2016, Sage Gateshead, October 14 – 16

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Hmmm… ‘Long, Authoritative List Of Everything That Happened’? Nah, not really my style. How about ‘Epic Musing On Life, Music And What It All Means’? Oof, maybe later.

Let’s just start with the car.

Dan(iel Thomas – well known in this parish) kindly agreed to drive me, Sarah and Lisa to our digs in Newcastle. Here we are setting off:

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Dan looking handsome, a vision in stubble, Sarah in holiday mode, Lisa appalled at Sarah’s story about someone whose retina fell out and me giving it some cheek. What could go wrong, eh? Well, Dan’s back is crook and went into spasm on the A19. At one point I had to shift gears for him because he couldn’t reach down to the stick. Given that I only hold a license to drive an automatic this was a fraught moment that I had to be talked through. Still, my slight embarrassment was as nothing to the agony Dan was clearly suffering. After gliding into some grim services so Dan could walk it off, Sarah drove the rest of the way.

Luckily, when we arrived a retinue of servants rushed to carry Dan into the fluffy opulence of Malmaison and I was roughly directed to Premier Inn, where I would be KEEPING IT REAL. As I trundled the wheelie case containing my band and my clothes along Quayside the air started to crackle. I looked up and saw – fuck me! – the trio of Mike ‘Xazzaz’ Simpson, Lee ‘Culver’ Stokoe and MIGUEL ‘SKULL MASK’ PEREZ walking towards me (all in black, natch).

Is this Rob? This is Rob!

Miguel said, lunging in for the bear hug.  Mike, who refuses to be photographed despite being a strikingly handsome guy, helpfully took this soon-to-be-iconic picture. Left to right: Miguel, me, Lee.  Tyne Bridge in the background.  Cool, eh?

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I’ve already written something about how important Miguel’s visit is to me and will return to the theme later so for now I’ll keep to the narrative.  Suffice to say I have rarely, if ever, seen anyone so pleased to be somewhere.  The huddle broke up so Miguel could soundcheck and I could settle into my (actually very pleasant) hotel room.

Soon I was trotting back over the Millennium Bridge to Gateshead and up the fuckloads of steps you need to climb to get to Sage:

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My feelings about Sage were fluid and contradictory.  On some levels it is profoundly impressive – an arts-for-all enterprise on a huge scale, proudly publicly funded, run by friendly and enthusiastic staff – but at other times it felt like a vast airport lounge from a Ballardian near-future dystopia.  From across the river it looks like a reclining figure from the title sequence of a cheapo James Bond knock-off (‘Silverfinger’?), on the inside it’s a Duplo play set, lit in sugary, boiled sweet colours.  For a structure so enormous it has little heft.  I could easily imagine the giant struts (one is cutting across the corner of the first picture below) hauling back the whole silver facade on a sunny day, like opening a roll-top bread-bin.  I did get pretty comfortable (institutionalised?) over the three days but there was definitely culture shock to contend with.

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An example: as I entered Hall 2, the main TUSK venue (middle picture above), for the first time on Friday an usher used a torch to show me down the stairs.  The room was dark aside from the stage lights illuminating the band currently playing.  Oh, I thought, it’s going to be like that is it?  Theatre.

Feeling discombobulated and out of my element I leaned myself up against a tousle-haired giant and enjoyed the crunktronik drama of Bad@Maths.  When the house lights went up at the end of their set I realised I was clutching onto:

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…Joe ‘Posset’ Murray – my RFM comrade-in-arms!  Always a delight to be in his company, likewise:

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yol!  Another who fears photography will remove biopsy snippets from his soul but I was NOT TO BE DENIED.  We soon became festival buds and hung out throughout proceedings.  Now though, I was so excited about seeing Miguel play that all I could do was babble and take photos of my new boots.  I’m not joking:

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[Editor’s note: at this point, after I’ve started introducing people but before I start rhapsodising about Skull Mask etc., I’m going to apologise in advance for not mentioning everyone I spoke to. This is partly because my notes are sketchy (and my memory worse) but mainly because I’m uncomfortable assigning some conversations to this ‘highlights package’ and some not. The social aspect of this trip was a thrill – from meeting people for the first time, to catching up with rarely seen friends, to chewing the fat with the regular crowd but outside of our normal context. It was all very inspiring. In short: if we talked, rest assured that I enjoyed our conversation and want to talk to you again.  Likewise I’m not busting a gut to account for every band, nor provide comprehensive links and tags – that isn’t the purpose of the exercise.  A quick net search should fill in any gaps.  There will be one Get Carter joke.]

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Next up it was Miguel Perez, playing as Skull Mask (apologies for crappy picture, I still had the flash on my camera from the boot pics and once he got started I didn’t think to try again). This was what I was here to see and his set – just man and guitar – was astounding. Flamenco flourishes, desert folk, improv spikiness and metal hammering flowed, pressed and burst like a time-lapse film of jungle flowers opening, like lava flow, like clouds of starlings at dusk, like liquid mercury. Miguel is one of the most technically adept guitarists I have ever seen but all that virtuosity is in service of one thing: the truth. To say the music of Skull Mask is heartfelt or sincere is to understate the raw beauty of what it reveals: a soul. Miguel’s soul.

Stood at the front I found myself having an out of body experience. Part of me was enjoying it on an absolutely visceral level, unwaveringly engaged, but another part of me was floating above thinking about what the experience meant. I’ve had a hard time with music this year. I’ve not listened to much and have been in denial about how burnt out I’d got keeping this blog afloat whilst juggling the demands of ‘real life’. I’d been hoping that this event would prove to be a big purge and cleanse and that I’d be returned to music rinsed clean and ready to GO. That didn’t happen, but something better did.

Watching the performance unfold, I started thinking about how beautiful life can be despite, sometimes because of, how hard it can be.  I thought about the miraculous combination of factors – hard work, friendship, sheer bloody luck – that led to us all being in this room at this time.  A strange, accepting calm enveloped me whilst at the same time the more present, grounded part of me was yelling (internally – I do have some control):

HOLY FUCKING CHRIST!! MIGUEL IS SAT RIGHT IN FUCKING FRONT OF ME PLAYING THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF THAT FUCKING GUITAR!!  FUCK!!!

At the end of the set I felt myself tearing up.

Outside, shortly after, Miguel was holding court talking ten-to-the-dozen.  I’ve never seen anyone more stoked – his heart must have been beating like a sparrow’s.  He explained his philosophy of life, about living in the moment but appreciating the steps that have brought you to it, about the Mexican relationship with the dead, about the music he had just played.  I couldn’t keep up – my mind had been blown – but luckily it didn’t matter that I couldn’t say anything, as Miguel, beer can in hand, couldn’t quiet down.  And why the hell should he?  It had been a triumph.

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A short time later I found myself stood next to Miguel watching Guttersnipe (how wonderful to be able to type that sentence).  I had predicted that their set would be amongst the most talked about at TUSK and they certainly left the crowd open mouthed, wide eyed, ears ringing.  I feel like I could write reams about this band, scribble profane codices, letterpress manifestos, paint placards to be carried in protest or celebration but when I actually sit down to type… it’s confounding.  The strength of Gretchen’s personality – gentle, thoughtful, keenly intelligent, enabled by a seemingly (to this fat, middle aged man) unbounded energy explodes on stage into a writhing conduit for, what?  Rage?  Despair?  Whatever it is, it feels like unmediated access to the same rooms that Miguel opened doors to.  Likewise, Rob’s unassuming, cheerful manner translates into the most glorious, life-affirming, pushing-a-shopping-trolley-down-the-concrete-stairs-of-a-car-park, free-punk drumming I’ve ever heard.  Afterwards, Paul Margree, of the We Need No Swords blog, tried to praise his technique and, in typical self-deprecating fashion, Rob disagreed:

My technique is shit, there is just a lot of it, and fast.

Love it.  This pair are unique, the band are important and you have to check them out.

Wandering in a daze after this I was collared by the very lovely Jen Parry who wanted to show me the exhibition of Matching Head artwork that she had put together, which was hidden under a staircase around the corner from the main entrances to Hall 2:

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I really dug this and thought Jen had captured the vibe of Lee’s cut-and-paste aesthetic very cleverly.  The exhibit was interactive in that you could make yourself comfortable and listen to Matching Head releases on the tape recorders provided.  On the leather sofa (bottom picture) there was a hammer (and some goggles – health and safety!) which I assumed was also there for punters so I used it to whale on some of the tapes and tape cases that were artfully scattered about.  It seemed appropriate at the time, though I’ve noticed a disapproving tweet from Andy Wood about the smashed cases since.  In my defence the artist was there egging me on and taking photos of me doing it!  My apologies if I got the art wrong – difficult to tell nowadays <winking emoji>…

About this time I realised I was shot for the day and silently drifted away.  Back at the hotel I half-watched Dredd on Film4 whilst sorting out stuff for the next day’s gig.  In my pants.

—ooOoo—

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On Saturday I woke from from the dream-free sleep of the righteous and padded downstairs to gorge on obscene amounts of breakfast in a room with a view of the underside of Tyne Bridge.  Glorious.  As I was tucking into my second plateful, I noticed that I had been name checked by Dawn Bothwell in the introduction to the festival programme.  Blimey!  I nearly spat out my bubble and squeak.  It all added to a cheerful, woozy calm, a kind of blown-out relaxation that I hadn’t felt since sitting on Low Newton beach in Northumberland with my wife Anne and son Thomas back in May:

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Aside from feeling sheepish about instigating a complicated, 6-way conversation about how we were all getting there (the more tired I am the more insistent I am about knowing WHAT HAPPENS NEXT), I was also relaxed about performing.  My band was packed (see picture above, midwich fits in a rucksack), I was sweet smelling, fully medicated and my cheek pouches were bulging with spare breakfast.  LET’S GO!

Well, let’s all see Wolfgang Voigt first.  This involved sitting in the Northern Rock Foundation Hall, feeling like I was in a dream version of a school assembly, with the headmaster replaced by an anonymous, unannounced middle-aged man giving a wordless, non-performance whilst illuminated by his laptop screen.  The sound – an ambient, computer-musicish drone, augmented by airy and/or brittle vibes familiar to those who know his work as, say, Gas – was perfectly lovely but I doubt it would have held my attention without Rachel Lancaster’s terrific visuals.

Rachel’s film was perfectly measured to draw out the best in the music.  We were reminded that there is nothing more sublimely beautiful than smoke rising in still air (‘Patrons are requested to smoke only on the right hand side of the auditorium’ – remember that?), unless the smoke is thick enough to resemble glaciers calving, or liquids of different densities spiralling into each other, or the pearlescent quality of crocodile scales as the creature lies semi-submerged and glistening…

Right then, NOW let’s go.

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‘Dark Tusk’ was set up by Lee Stokoe as a fringe event to help make the most of Miguel’s visit.  Here’s the blurb:

With the arrival of Miguel Perez in the UK to perform as Skull Mask at TUSK, it would be unthinkable to let him escape back to Mexico without congregating with some of his closest conspirators from the Northern noise void.

Culver & La Mancha del Pecado: with six collaborations to date and numerous splits and joints amassed, a live collaboration between these 2 horror drone obsessives was inevitable…

Midwich: one of Miguel’s most ardent advocates via his Radio Free Midwich blog, this is a mega-rare live performance from Rob Hayler’s solo electronic machine-dream.

NeckvsThroat: an ongoing postal duo of Miguel and Yol, binding guitar and voice with barbed wire and discarded steel.

Xazzaz: sinkhole drones, guitar fog and harsh dives from darkest Northumberland.

Plus sound installation by MP Wood.

2pm till 5pm at the Soundroom, Cuthbert Street, Gateshead, NE8 1PH. 15 min walk from Sage Gateshead.

Free with Tusk pass, £3 without.

The Soundroom

Cool, eh?  I love a matinee performance, me.  Miguel, yol and I met up with Jamie (if you don’t know his recordings as ‘Wrest’ you should check them out immediately) and his pal Steve who had kindly offered to drive us to the venue from Sage.  Miguel spent the journey telling us about how he had fended off two shitfaced Glaswegians in the hotel bar the night before.  They had offered him drugs (‘the hardest in Glasgow!’) in full view of two coppers who also happened to be there.  He wanted no part of it, fearing he was being set up, but Jamie assured him:

Nah, that kind of thing just happens around here…

…and expanded on similar topics whilst Steve forlornly tried to get him to concentrate on the journey and offer directions.  Never mind, we got there.

The Soundroom is a community centre/rehearsal space/gig venue sat in isolation in Gateshead.  I suspect most of us scuzzball, dog-eared, D.I.Y., no-audience underground types found it much easier to breath there than in the airy atrium of Sage and it is well equipped with a very decent PA.

Turn out was good, including – fuck me! – is that…

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…erstwhile RFM colleague, Discogs obsessive and near-hermit Scott McKeating?  Yes, it is!  Just one of many hands from the pantheon of the righteous I shook during proceedings.  You know who you are.

Once underway, the gig proved a joy.  First up was Neck vs Throat, the duo of Miguel and yol, playing with the lights on for full kid’s-birthday-party-at-local-church-hall effect:

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I needn’t say too much about this one as, amazingly, a video exists of the performance – filmed by Pete Cann (who, being an absolute darling, had come up from Leeds just for the afternoon) on his ‘phone.  Sound quality is hardly crystal but fuck that – it’s a document.

What truly boggled the noggin was how fluid and natural the partnership appeared.  Prior to that very afternoon the project had only existed as a transatlantic file swap.  Now it felt like a psychic connection, the product of long hours of rehearsal.  Miguel’s fingers-in-the-soundhole grappling, like a wheelbarrow of gravel being dropped into molasses, perfectly in sync with yol’s clattering, guttural retching and bleakly comic exhortations.

Next was Xazzaz and Mike treated us to the best set-that-wasn’t-Skull-Mask of the weekend.  As has already been noted, he forbids photography so all I have is this snap of his set-up, snatched prior to the show beginning:

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Mike used two (maybe three?) guitars and three (maybe four? Five?) amplifiers to create a drone/roar of ego-obliterating purity and intensity.  All the Xazzaz recordings I’ve heard have been exceptional but actually being there as it unfolds live was a shortcut to… I dunno?  Enlightenment?  For something as heavy as watching a gigantic dinosaur thrash its last and slowly sink into a tar pit it was a strangely life-affirming, awe-inspiring experience.  North-Eastern drone-metal of this quality is pretty much my favourite thing in all the world.  Fucking hell, I thought, I’ve got to follow that…

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…and so it came to pass.  I thanked all who were there and those involved in setting it up, had a quick word about the two tracks I was about to play – one inspired by a dismissal of our music by Miguel’s daughter, one a version of my track from a split CD-r I shared with Miguel, dedicated the set to him and… faded up a recording of my son snoring.  The rest was thick, chewy, throbbing drone at pleasingly high volume that would have gone entirely to plan if I could have stopped myself fiddling with the cut-off.  Anyway, it seemed to go down well and I was rubbery with relief once all was packed away.  Enjoyed the opportunity to bounce about on my seat too.

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Finally then: Culver and La Mancha Del Pecado.  Another unique opportunity to see a transatlantic tape-swap project in the flesh and this time the one that kicked it all off.  Miguel later told me that, like so many of us who end up in noise, he found himself looking for something without knowing exactly what that something was.  He discovered Skullflower, read up about it, saw Culver mentioned, found a rip of a CD-r in a shady spot on the internet, listened to it and heard the contents of his own head reflected back at him.  Soon they were collaborating on a series of beautifully sustained, utterly nihilistic, implacably menacing ‘horror drones’ and the rest is willpower and logistics.  This set was an absolute masterclass.

…and it wasn’t even 5pm.

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I have to admit that the evening programme back at Sage was something of a blur after that.  My highlights were the early doors sets from Usurper (above above) and Ashtray Navigations (above).

Surprising myself, I realised that this was the first time I had seen Ali and Malcy go at it live despite having heard many of their releases and eyeballing numerous zines and comics over the years (indeed, one of my collages can be found in Giant Tank Offline #4).  My usual reaction to their work – amused bewilderment – was swept away by a far more concrete admiration for the Dada lunacy of the performance.

For example: crouched under a table, each took a turn deliberately and repeatedly banging their head as if trying to get up and forgetting the obstacle above them.  I thought that the yellow objects taped to their heads were something like washing-up sponges to soften the blow but was later informed by Stuart Arnot (of Acrid Lactations, who was roped in to their gig at the last minute) that it was butter and that the stink in their hair afterwards was rank.  Idiocy or commitment to the art?  Or both?  Oh, you decide.

After the first few minutes of Ashtray Navigations starting, Miguel, who had been leaning on the stage, came over to shout in my ear…

Now I know why everyone loves them!

…and I had to grin because he was right: it was, from the off, a performance full of heart that encouraged a reciprocal response from an eager, affectionate crowd.  Phil pulled out one heart-stoppingly preposterous solo after another whilst Mel – resplendent in glittered Converse – held down the electronics and laughed at the site of Gretchen Guttersnipe and RFM’s own marlo eggplant wigging out front and centre.  Much as I enjoyed the bubbletroniks and nostril-flaring bombast I think my favourite track was a lengthy ambient piece halfway through during which Phil folded himself up and sat on the floor.  It was spacious and woozy but had a crisp brittleness to it that kept it fresh and engaging throughout.  Have I heard this before?  Probably, but I couldn’t name it.  Shameful, I know, considering my placing in the AshNav fan club.  What can I say?  I’m a big man, but I’m out of shape.

The evening culminated with me, Dan, Lisa and Sarah reconvening and rolling up to my second fringe event of the day.  This time at The Old Police Station (a venue I was told is ‘borrowed’ from the council?), a ten minute walk up the hill behind Sage.  The place was already full when we got there at about 1am and there was a great squat gig vibe with people spilling out into the street, sat on the pavement talking loudly, drinking and smoking.  For me it felt like travelling back in time 25+ years to my misspent youth in Brighton, a bittersweet feeling I was reluctant to embrace until someone appeared, like Scooter in the Muppet Show, shouted…

C’mon Miguel you’re on!

(or something like that) and we all piled in to a tiny front room to see Oppenheimer play.  Seriously, there must have been 30-40 people plus a four piece band in a space more suited to two sofas and a telly.  Once over the initial crush panic, it was awesome.

Oppenheimer are the aforementioned Jamie (drums), Lee (bass) and Mike (guitar), this night augmented with Miguel (also on bass) and they play, Christ, how to describe it?  Super-basic, long-form, thug-punk, primal-metal.  Whatever it is, it had the packed crowd bent at the waist, rocking in unison.  It is a crying shame that Mike doesn’t allow photos because when he was stepped on by a drunken and oblivious punter the look of lupine ferocity he threw was fucking terrifying.  I did get this pic of Jamie, Miguel and Lee though, which, as a piece of reportage, is my favourite of all the photos I took over the weekend.

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After the set I waved goodbye to my sweaty comrades and walked back to the hotel.  I put a music channel on the TV as I got ready for bed.  Every video looked like a film by Matthew Barney.  Lights out: 3am.

—ooOoo—

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On Sunday morning I felt exhilarated after the remarkable day before but old and tired after the late night.  Oof, I don’t intentionally go to bed at 3am ever nowadays.  Thus another war-on-the-buffet, gargantuan breakfast was warranted before I stumbled to Sage in order to meet Paul ‘Pops’ Margree, still of the We Need No Swords blog, who wished to interview me for his podcast.  I’d met Paul for the first time this weekend, we’d hit it off and were already chatting in a free and easy fashion.  However, when the tape recorder was switched on something stamped on a fuzz pedal between what I was thinking and what I was saying.  Oh well, here’s hoping he can salvage something coherent.

We adjourned upstairs to the Northern Rock Foundation Hall (where Voigt played) to see yol at midday.  This was easily the weirdest programming kink of the festival – both venue and timing – but a fair few people had turned up to see yol take his turn as headmaster-gone-wrong at the front of assembly.  The gig was intense, muscular, poised.  The venue adding a unusual theatricality to the bulging veins and growling stutters.  I always look around at the audience during a yol show, relishing the expressions of appalled fascination, but the stage lighting made it difficult to gauge reactions.  His comic timing was faultless though, plenty of half-laughs as we appreciated him diffusing the tension with a funny line then realising that what he had just said was easily as bleak, nihilistic even, as the rest of the performance.  To describe his total commitment to expressing his vision I need to reclaim a debased word and re-inflate it with meaning:  yol is an artist.

Feeling some trepidation about lasting the day I decided to accompany the men in black (Jamie, Mike, Lee, Miguel) back over the river and had a laugh walking with them through the Quayside market as far as my hotel.  I cocooned myself there until it was time to go see Tony Conrad: Completely In The Present.  Cuddling up with Joe Murray in the back row, this turned out to be a beautifully measured and life-affirming documentary about a charming and fascinating artist, surpassing all my (fairly high) expectations.  I loved it, and can only praise the transparency of the film-making – the director Tyler Hubby does an excellent job of standing back and allowing the story to be told by Conrad himself, a wise decision when your subject is such an intriguing raconteur.  With a voice and demeanour like a cross between William Burroughs and John Waters, Conrad chuckles through a life of iconoclasm, innovation and determination in a way that can’t help but be awe-inspiring.  There is also an hilarious section about what a total bell-end La Monte Young is.  I don’t want to get into any more detail about the content as you really should track this down – you’ll be rewarded.  The film was clearly a hit with Tuskers and provoked much discussion afterwards.  I was lucky enough to see Conrad live twice and boasted of it many times during the rest of the night.

During the evening programme I made the effort to give every act a fair shake, a decision made easier by the fact that my brain was shot and I found myself in a state of happy bewilderment wherever I was standing.  Highlights for me were probably Silent Servant and the final act Senyawa.

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Tall table for a short guy, eh?  Must share Dan’s back problems.  Silent Servant – American producer Juan Mendez – was notable for changing the atmosphere in Hall 2.  Suddenly all the middle-aged beardies (like myself) found themselves at a club night.  Advertised in the programme as ‘grinding, irresistible techno’ I actually best enjoyed the bits where he veered into Electronic Body Music territory – the kind of high camp, leather bound pounding that our Belgian friends were so good at in the late 80s.  yol was tempted in, amused by the prospect of seeing me dance, and guarded my handbag and coat whilst I stomped and flailed in tragic approximation of my twenty-something self.  The ‘pit’ of Hall 2 was soon lined with middle-aged beardies (like myself) leaning on the wall, sweating and clutching at their chests.  Whoo boy, haven’t danced for any length of time in a while.  The young and beautiful looked on in amusement.

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The last act on Sunday, and thus of the festival as a whole, was the Indonesian duo Senyawa.  Vocalist Rully Herman powered through a scouring range of timbres and techniques, hands grasping the mic stand or raised up in Black Metal claws.  Fuck me, the swagger on this dude.  Wukir Suryadi held his own playing an apparently hand-made instrument called the bambuwukir which resembled a giant phallus, stringed and pegged, which he could pick or bow to create anything from the most delicately augmented silence to brutal shredding.  I suspect they personify exactly the type of high-quality, cross-cultural, what-the-fuckery that TUSK wishes to promote and that their place on the bill was no accident.  Having them headline the whole shebang was programming genius.  After their set, under the cruel house lights, Lee Stokoe and I exchanged the kind of blasted/delighted look that Lee Etherington, creative director of TUSK, must design the festival to provoke.  Congratulations, mate – mission accomplished.

All that was left to do was say goodbye.  Handshakes were exchanged, gratitude expressed, Miguel was hugged, wished well, hugged again, wished well again but now with a distinct wobble in my voice.  I nearly fell down the stairs in my hurry to get into the fresh air.

We’ll see each other again sometime, right?

Yes.  We will.

—ooOoo—

Postscript:

a) We got home safely, as did Miguel.  Dan recovers.

b) Two Skull Mask tapes were made available to coincide with Miguel’s visit, one released by Invisible City Records (hello Craig) and one on Lee Stokoe’s Matching Head.  I’ve been listening to them as I typed this article and I reckon you should buy both.  Lee also has some rad Skull Mask t-shirts for sale.  Hit him up via the contact details on the Matching Head Discogs page.  All the discerning blog editors are wearing ’em – an Autumn wardrobe essential.

c) Last year the live-streamed sets from TUSK were made available after the event via the Archive page of the TUSK website.  I shall be keeping an eye on this, and on Lee Etherington’s Twitter feed (@tusk_music), in the hope of similar generosity with this year’s recordings.

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival

the science of dropping things: joe murray on 23 minutes, mudguts, hardworking families

October 18, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Various Artists – 23 Minutes – 23 Tracks – 23 Artists (3″ CD-r, Eastville Vending, edition of 60 or download)

Mudguts – Locque Atmir Kodai (3″ CD-r, Bells Hill, BH 013, edition of 30)

Hardworking Families – BA/LS/BN (CD-r, Beartown Records, edition of 50)

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Various Artists – 23 Minutes – 23 Tracks – 23 Artists

How I love a micro-compilation.  Those labours of love that gather together large numbers of wonky artists and put them in a restrictive jacket.  They say,

Do your thing… but keep it quick.

Of course this is excellent advice – the forethought and discipline creating a series of unrelated but often complimentary micro-moments coughing and spluttering outta your earbuds.

As ever there is a bit of personal history here.  Homemade Grindcore tape-trades and the RRR-500 locked-groove monster (with its 500 individual artists) first alerted me to this fascinating stubby-nub of the ‘various artists’ family tree.  Then I found the slightly more breathy Martin Archer Network series with over 100 people playing short pieces over two discs.  More recently Sindre Bjerga took up the mantle with his Gold Soundz compilation of 99 international-gonks on the marvelous and irreverent Pissing in the Wind.

But this time the seed was planted by one Neil Campbell to use up all those old 3 inch CD-Rs out there.  He reckons 23 minutes is around the maximum amount of music you can cram on one of these little silver discs so 23 x 1 minute pieces makes perfect sense.  The Marketing and Research branch of the Eastville Vending Corporation agreed and ‘ta-dah!’ – a new micro-comp is born.

You can slice these things several ways but my favourite tactic is to dive straight in and dig this as a single piece; an ever-changing narrative of moods and themes.  Then I realise that it is actually presented as a single 23 min piece so that does help things somewhat and I settle back and l.i.s.t.e.n.

So, where did my 23 minute journey take me?

Laica – Electric dodgems collapse into magnetic tessellations // Kemper Norton – brass rubbing slowed down via architectural trauma // Concrete_Field – watching a séance from inside a wax piano // Revbjelde – slopped balloons, dry spaghetti cracks // Band of Holy Joy – machine code dirty-talk between distant servers // Farmer Glitch – scary news ident // Howlround – confessions from the bristles of a shoe-shine machine // Neil Campbell – the science of dropping things at various angles // Gusset – answerphone message melancholicx – the stilted delivery making this one of the 21st Century’s saddest sounds // IX Tab – no pussyfooting with high-vis jackets // Noise Research Institute – bumplestiltskin – hands in the air! // Runningonair – public enema dub : surprisingly relaxing // Graham Dunning – radiates as multi-coloured auras // Ekoplekz – “A rare moment of calm. The bombs fall on the Eastern District so all I can see is dust.” // Elisabeth Veldon – loop-tronics raid Esquivel to bring a new clarity to damp cardboard // Decadnids – serious bowed-metal-sax reverberations  border on the erotic // Xylitol – a clear autumn morning, alone in Kendal // Robin Foster – selective tones filtered by sympathetic shimmering feedback // Foldhead – mighty & dark theatrics // FM3V – chestnut seller hacks oven to play Bollywood themes // Tim Hill – tanned seabirds rejoice the new birth // Assembled Minds – I dropped my water pistol down an echo chamber (smeared surprise coda) // Sarah Angliss – Twins joint memories? Phantom limb pluck and solemn-compression electronics.

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Mudguts – Locque Atmir Kodai

The original Death Eater musik – as banned from the Slytherin Common Room!

Bilious clouds of distemper billow from his holiness Lee Culver and are muddied further by dark mistral Scott McKeating… that’s how Mudguts roll.  True believers take note – this cheeky 3 inch is a semi-official offering so even more occluded and forbidden than it’s dark predecessor.*

This disc gets down to business straight away so there is no reason for me not to either.

‘Widowvine’ crashed through a cloud of bad intention and night tremors to become a meditative prescription of bitter herbs and rancid smoke.  Parts are reversed Santana, parts are bar room pre-brawl.  As a map of psychic disturbances this marks the truly terrifying blank spots with an inky smear.

A one minute masterpiece ‘Split Gorgon’ re-lives the dispiriting experience of tuning into another person’s dream.  It’s all falling, falling, falling until the brain juice squirts a different solution and you find yourself becoming Leonard Cohen (or something).  Then ‘snap’ it’s over and you are awake.

Then finally, with the most evocative track title of the year, ‘First my Body, Now my Corpse’ sparkles and shudders with an almost glam-rock brightness.  But this spotlight is so harsh and revealing it blisters the skin and cooks soft rubbery eyes.  At times I’m minded of that Sonic Boom fella if he dug the Darkthrone.  But soon enough I shake my head hard enough for them scales to fall from my peepers and I realise I’m on my knees… Mudguts glory has laid waste to my corner of civilisation and rags and half bricks are all that remains.

Phew!  You dig it?

*What I’m saying is hit up Scott for a copy at the Bells Hill address!

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Hardworking Families – BA/LS/BN

HWF approaches this record in pieces: abstracted sauces, performance as code, gristle, electronic manipulation and tape glitch. Forgive me.  I’m gunna gush, but Tom (HWF) Bench is a master of the thought and edit school for sure.

This release solves sound problems like a damn dancer would; the old soft-shoe shuffle provides texture while clean accuracy is rustled from the percussive rudiments of tap.  All built on sexy muscles the accents are a silvery jet that slips between ear and frames.

This is what I hear…

  • Glutch & fromer! A displaced chord organ melts into black-flecked slush.  The distant whooping crane places his beak into the shellac grooves on the Victrola.
  • “Buff-uddle.” Microphone shuggle in a hair shirt. Constant motion gaffs like an okra bud over Velcro. The hobo orchestra ‘thwack’ old tins and wrestle an egg-slicer back and forth.  The ripple of thin metal dances right in my forehead – things coalesce – merge – re-form into steps cut out of bright paper – Matisse becomes instruction.  The code is to be cracked but a fair advantage is favoured on the light of ankle.  Un-led rhythms shuffle out of this desert storm, moving against each other like lovers, all slither and explore.  Tin & rin & rin & tin & tin pop-out plastic eardrums to faint electro influences?  The gradual sigh of a bus coming to rest and opening up the wheelchair ramp.   Dry energy – like plunging your hand into a bag of uncooked rice – each grain perfect, each cousin similar but individual.  Wheat echoes; a fork balances, it’s twines interlaced with a spoon’s surly lip.
  • Buttons of rubber depressed by pudgy fingers. They sing in harmonies un-dreamt by Clive Sinclair – each mercurial tone a slack-arsed fart. The washer vibe snips out via polo mint.
  • Wooden planks mumble as heavy hands slap until they find a resonant pitch/probing fingers dislodge the lid and keys (the white teeth of shame) are slackened with a tone-wrench/the taught strings are teased and top and sides rubbed with soft beads/a variety of fidelities, each proper in it’s own dissonance becomes partially embedded so rich echo-parlour switches between hi-fi buff and pre-teen noise goofball. I read Miles’ BIG FUN was cobbled together outta oddments.  Tom takes a similar stance but each floor-cutting here is as wonderful as an unexpected smooch.
  • The opening salvo of dysentery bombs that smoke over the battlefield! It clogs hair and exposed pores – the Angel of Mons offers scant sanctuary.
  • An ice-cream headache from Steve Albini’s brow. THAT THE THINK guitar sound shredded through electric fan in a pissing bad mood.  Shaking frozen peas out of a Tupperware box, drilling holes into broken glass.  Or, if you’d prefer, the barista’s revenge – hot milk battered through dirty filters.
  • Free-text box opened up and all the pixels clump together into vague geometric shapes with impudent languor.

All in all, this disc brings an essential vitality into my soft pampered life.  It’s wormed into my lugs now.  I’m saved ya’ll.

Can you afford to miss this one dear reader? Can your children?? Can your immortal soul???

—ooOoo—

Eastville Vending

Bells Hill

Beartown Records

tusk arrives…

October 14, 2016 at 9:54 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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tusk poster

Right then folks, I’ve packed my bindle and I’m off to TUSK. Because my ‘phone is carved out of wood I shall have no access to Twitter, email or this blog for the duration so if you need to contact me you will have to stand in my presence, extend your hand for shaking and make some kind of greeting noise with your actual mouth. Hugs may be acceptable – gauge the mood.

My midwich set for Dark Tusk on Saturday afternoon is in the bag (figuratively and literally) and will, I hope, sound whip-smart at silly volume. The other three acts on are unmissable anyway.

There is much to look forward to!  I am light and rubbery with excitement!  See you there!

—ooOoo—

TUSK Festival 2016

my bloody ventolin: joe murray on star turbine, robert ridley-shackleton, sindre bjerga

October 13, 2016 at 11:25 am | Posted in new music, no audience underground | Leave a comment
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Star Turbine – Nothing Should Move Unless You Want It To (CD, Frozen Light, edition of 300 or download)

Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Tupperwave (CD-r, Chocolate Monk, choc.338, edition of 42)

Sindre Bjerga – Japan 2013 Tour Documentary – A Film By Shade Barka Martins (DVD-r, Goldsoundz, GS#130, edition of 26)

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Star Turbine – Nothing Should Move Unless You Want It To

This canny duo of Claus Poulsen & Sindre Bjerga have now been together for about 6 years – that’s longer than The Beatles live-performing career.  And in that time they’ve moved from loveable moptops (read: hessian cloaked druids) to Abbey Road sophisticates pulling sounds from a cosmic-scurf fortress and mixing them cleverly with improvised crackles and hopped-up speech interventions.

On this disc they reach deep into the hard drive and present, in the main, truncated live performances; the bacon in the bap, hurling you straight into their fully articulate sound cavern.

It starts as you’d imagine – mice invest dollars in sonic-grip technology, aiming their blunderbuss straight at you for the duration of ‘An/Auf’.  It feels sort of sticky and thick and on the verge of panic.  I feel much more comfortable if I keep my breath even and calm.

Grey-rubber ripping shakes a tail on ‘Hearing Voices’ among some seriously screwed vocals and inter-planet hum.  The rushing of tape grot adds a complimentary momentum pulling your ears in different directions; microscopic insects rearrange your nerve endings.

Some sort of My Bloody Ventolin wash creeps through the recording, ‘Looking For the Centre’ a heady rush of airbrakes and panpipes bleeding into a, into a bloated walrus gas pouch?

[worried reviewer checks sleeve notes in panic]

Don’t worry. It’s my bad.  No sea mammals were harmed in the creating of this particular jam… it’s just the ‘Fractal  Zoom’ piece unpicking  my learning centres and scrambling early illustrated encyclopaedia memories.  Gosh!  The tape work on this is black as tar and twice as difficult to remove.

The cherry on the pie belongs to the wonderfully titled ‘Ape Escape’ that sounds as if IRCAM released its answerphone message recorded after a rather noggy Christmas party.  OR… photocopying your arse and sending it to Dick Raaijmakers.  You my dear listener will have to work that one out yourselves.

Closer ‘Alef 0’ sees Claus take a sharp mallet to Sindre’s basic recordings and goof them up good and proper.  How he’s managed to turn this herring into a Tangerine Dream I’ll never know but it’s heavy as bad news (never BAD NEWS) and rich as freshly ploughed soil.

Despite this recent Euro-nonsense (AKA Brex-shit) the Star Turbine will be back in your town soon.  Pull your canoe out the mud and set a course for their cleansing murk.

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Robert Ridley-Shackleton – Tupperwave

Fifty minutes of RR-S starts with a respectful tweak on NWA’s collective nips and then gets exponentially odder by the minute.  The trademarked pocket jazz sound is still in effect but over a longer duration this is embedded and augmented with child-like interactions, tangent-shearing thoughts and bakerlite ring-tones of the mind.

Question.  But just what is Robert Ridley-Shackleton?  An effortless creature of spoken wordisms, a stream of consciousness half-thought jester, a purple pretender, a dry-rattler extreme?  Or perhaps he is the new plastic messiah?

As an excitable, hyperbolic fanzine-style reviewer it’s almost too much to take in.  Do I describe the actual sounds coming out my headphones?  Oh… I do, do I?  Here goes…

…scratch, hiss, crackle, sniff, sex-rap-brit-funk, casio-donk, sniff, meandering monologues, scratch, clonk, harsh noise sock, house keys, humming & mugging…

…but what a thousand tapes with similar components don’t do is pose a really important question.  With a comedian’s nicotine-fingered timing RR-S unravels what it means to entertain and what it means to be entertained?

There’s a long tradition of artists pushing and pressing at the limits of acceptable entertainment.  And I don’t mean that violent or sexist bullshit, that wreckers of civilisation cul-de-sac, but the more fundamental – how far can I go unwrapping to find the very essence of my own personal music?  Family favourites like Gwilly Edmondez, Hugh Metcalfe and the Shadow Ring have been there and chipped out their own answers in the No Audience Mount Rushmore but our very own RR-S has a bag of chisels too and he is already tappy-yappy-tapping incoherent pictograms at the base of the cliff.

The whiffle and flounce feel like a diary of instant conversation created in the moments between a late tea and bed.  The Illuminati and God get equal footing to Mr Poo and Mrs Wee as mistakes, pre-thoughts and apologies are sent direct to you in a monologue of seemingly endless imagination.

Oh yeah… there is much rattling and shaking with the texture of Quaver’s eggs.

One of the ‘traditional’ musical pieces, a 5 minute keyboard funk jam, ends with the sound of brittle punnets being crushed (it’s sound art – listen!).  The other (a 3 minute keyboard funk jam) launches into a discogs/format paranoid rant backed with static/analogue card-noise war and a riff on taking apart the post-creative process re: publishing.

I’m happy with myself I think

RR-S concludes.  As well you might be – the most singular record of the year.

sbtourdvd

Sindre Bjerga – Japan 2013 Tour Documentary – A Film By Shade Barka Martins

A what? A DVD-R?  That most neglected of formats gets a swift brush up and plane ticket to Japan for this super-charming documentary.

See! Sindre (and brother Jorn) explore downtown Japan and creep through the narrow streets looking for the off-off-map venues played on our Norwegian friend’s first visit to the home of the mighty Budokan.

Marvel! As Sindre sets up his trusty yellow Dictaphones, echo tube and tape mess in cramped bars, tiny arts spaces and a beautiful elephant temple; blowing hot steam through his cobbled-electronics, bristly mouth parts and drone-boxes.

Watch!! Various ex-pat goofs and clean-cut Japanese fellows captured doing their own damn thing: solo keyboard hums, circular clarinet, chromed electronics, theatrical goon impressions and electric- fan-versus-acoustic-guitar living sculptures.

Shade’s camera is a friendly traveling companion; always present with a pack of tissues; clear, bright and attentive but never in-your-face.  The downtime of a tour is captured with a practiced eye as attractive, vibrant shows are interspersed with sleepy train rides, airport snoozes and the gentle panic of being lost in an unfamiliar city.

Proving the No-Audience Underground, although sparse, is strategically placed on a global scale the gig-goers lap up Sindre’s approach to tape manipulation in a very physical way; lobbing projectiles at him during an instruction piece and (incredibly politely and gently) scything miniature cymbals across the room to topple Bjerga’s constructions of WalkMan/Dictaphone/steel resonator.

But of course this wouldn’t be a trip to Japan without a session in a silk robe and Sindre rocks his white-patterned shortie like a motherfucker!

Like all Gold Soundz releases this is super-limited so I’d make a bee-line for this quick to feast those peepers.

—ooOoo—

Frozen Light

Chocolate Monk

Gold Soundz

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